Christmas goes into way-back machine for Victorian decorations

Christmas in Victorian times could be ornate or simple. Both variations were on display Sunday in the Victorian Christmas Tour through Carson City's historic district.

At the Roberts House at Carson and Corbett streets, Janet Perry bedecked a tree with a couple dozen decorations that she made one cold February out of paper things, ribbons, magazine clippings and bits of lace.

Over in the Elliott-Chartz house at Nevada and Spear streets, Bud and Gayle Klette have overloaded their primary tree with more than 1,000 decorations. Most are antique, though a Joe Montana does hang from one branch.

"Every year we say we don't have room for any more ornaments," Gayle Klette said.

Seven houses, two churches and the St. Charles Hotel opened their doors Sunday for the annual Victorian Christmas Tour put on each year as the major fund-raiser for the Nevada Landmarks Society. Much of the money raised goes to buy historic furnishings for the Roberts House, which is a city park, said Paula Cannon, a docent at the Roberts House.

George Brunz of Minden said the tour reminded him of a time when Christmas was simpler.

"I think the difference is today everybody expects a lot," Brunz said. "When I was a kid, I got an orange, some nuts and maybe one toy."

The Elliott-Chartz House as done up by the Klettes was acknowledged as the most elaborately decorated home. Gayle Klette has a year-round thing for Santa Claus.

She said she has some 500 Santa figures, many thumbsize, many dozens on two trees, others in and on cabinets. A faded Santa from about 1920 stands atop a china cabinet.

Nearly every room has a Santa of some sort, including the kitchen, and many stay up year round. Indeed, a Santa, rather than an angel, rests atop the big tree in the front parlor.

"You don't see very much plastic here," said Nan Kreher, who toured with her daughter, Natalie. "We just moved here in August from Michigan. This offers us an opportunity to see Carson City a little bit."

The Klettes acquired many of their decorations through their antique business, Art and Antiques at King and Curry streets.

Even though many of the Klette decorations - dolls, fish, Santas, trumpets, waxed angels - date from the Victorian era, Klette said typical decorations were more natural.

"Truly, Victorians did cranberry and popcorn and dried fruit," she said. "(The Klettes decorate ornately) because we have the decorations and people like to see heavy-duty decorations."

Gayle Klette's small, table-top Christmas tree in the middle parlor even demonstrated Victorian high-tech. It stood in a rotating, musical tree stand dating from 1875 that plays some five or six carols.

The trees at the Roberts House most frequently feature lace.

"Lacy, that was typical of Victorian decorations," Cannon said. "The Roberts probably celebrated Christmas like everybody. They had a few decorations and they may have had a few social gatherings."


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